The knob-tailed gecko (Nephrurus sp.) is a 4-5.5” SVL, nocturnal lizard native to Australia. They can be found in arid and semi-arid areas all over the continent, and are primarily terrestrial (ground-dwelling).
Knob-tailed geckos have large heads, enormous eyes, vertical pupils, relatively long legs, and short, chubby tails tipped with a knob of flesh. Unlike most other geckos, they have eyelids, and they do not have sticky feet. Pattern and color vary according to species, but they are usually red or brown in color with a pale belly and light and/or dark spots, blotches, or bands.
Knob-tailed geckos make good beginner reptiles because of their hardiness and ease of care, but they prefer not to be handled. Expected lifespan is at least 10 years.
Care requirements for different species of Nephrurus will vary slightly, but they’re similar enough that the basics can be covered in a care sheet. We strongly encourage you, however, to do additional research specific to your species.
Minimum terrarium size for knob-tailed geckos
The minimum terrarium size for a knob-tailed gecko is 20”L x 10”W x 12”H, or a 10 gallon tank. Of course, larger is always better — if you provide, they will use it!
Housing multiple knob-tailed geckos in the same terrarium is not recommended, and may result in fighting and injuries if attempted.
Do knob-tailed geckos need UVB?
Technically they can survive without it, but they are healthier when it is provided. UVB lighting helps provide a clear day/night cycle, provides all of the vitamin D that your gecko needs, strengthens the immune system, facilitates better digestion, and other benefits.
The best UVB bulbs for a knob tailed gecko in a 10-20 gallon terrarium are:
- Arcadia ShadeDweller kit
- Zoo Med ReptiSun 5.0 compact coil, 26w
For best results, house the UVB bulbs in a reflective fixture. Position the lamp on the same side of the terrarium as the heat lamp, 12-14” above the basking area.
UVB is blocked by glass and plastic, so placing the terrarium in front of a window isn’t “free UVB” — in fact it can make your terrarium too hot due to the greenhouse effect. Don’t forget to replace your bulb every 12 months!
Lights should be on for 13 hours/day during summer and 11 hours/day during winter. This should be done gradually to simulate seasonal changes in day length, and helps regulate your gecko’s hormonal rhythm for better health.
Best temperature for knob-tailed geckos
Knob-tailed geckos should have a basking temperature of 88-90°F and cool side temperature between 70-75°F. Heat sources should be turned off at night. Keep track of temperatures with a digital probe thermometer, with the probe placed on the basking site.
You can provide heat for your gecko with a heat mat (no larger than 1/3 of the floor space) or halogen heat bulb. Halogen heat bulbs are better at imitating sunlight, and considered to be a superior form of reptile heating by experts. Do not use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective.
Best humidity levels for knob-tailed geckos
Knob-tailed geckos do best in an environment with 30-40% average humidity, as measured by a digital probe hygrometer with the probe in the middle of the terrarium. However, they also need ready access to a humid hideout lined with moist substrate to give them a place to go when they need more moisture, such as when they’re shedding.
Use a spray bottle to wet down the cool side of the enclosure three times a week or so. This boosts the substrate moisture content and also gives the gecko an extra opportunity to drink. This is important because some knob-tailed geckos may prefer not to drink from a dish.
Best substrate for knob-tailed geckos
“Loose” substrates that mimic a reptile’s natural environment cushion the animal’s joints and offer a place where they can exercise natural burrowing behaviors. This is particularly important for certain species of knob-tailed geckos that love to dig!
We recommend the following substrates for knob-tailed geckos:
- Zoo Med ReptiSand
- Exo Terra Desert Sand
Substrate should be at least 4” deep and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with contaminated substrate.
How to decorate a knob-tailed gecko terrarium
An empty terrarium leads to a bored gecko. Keep your gecko entertained and engaged with its environment with the strategic use of décor items that encourage it to exercise natural behaviors.
At bare minimum, you will need at least two hides/“caves” for the gecko to use. However, it’s best to include other items, such as:
What to feed to a knob-tailed gecko
Knob-tailed geckos are insectivores, which means that they need to eat a variety of insects to get the right nutrition. Food should be offered daily, skipping 1 or 2 days each week. One meal should be 2-4 appropriately-sized bugs. An appropriately-sized bug is slightly smaller than the gecko’s head.
You will also need calcium and vitamin supplements to help keep your gecko healthy. We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, lightly dusted on all of your gecko’s feeder insects. It’s okay to occasionally skip a dusting.
How to handle your knob-tailed gecko
Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. Pertaining to knob-tailed geckos specifically, they’re usually quite shy and get stressed when handled regularly. If you want to interact with your pet, it’s better to try hand-feeding with a pair of soft-tipped tongs.
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please further your research with high-quality sources. The more you know, the better you will be able to care for your pet!